A Little Known Mark Commentary you Should Know About

I have more Mark commentaries than other book of the NT. There are so many really good one’s. Vincent Taylor, C.E.B. Cranfield, R.T. France (good old British one’s), Rudolf Pesch (best German commentary), Craig Evans (good on religionsgeschichte), A.Y. Collins (dense and nearly definitive), M. Eugene Boring (great on literary theological themes), Ben Witherington (Mark is one of his best commentaries), and esp. Robert Gundry (who nails the purpose of Mark).  Ched Myers’ Binding the Strongman is well-known for its liberationist reading of Mark (see my review here). But there is another one in the same ilk, lesser known, but an easier read and wonderfully written.

It is Herman C. Waetjen‘s A Reordering of Power a Socio-Political Reading of Mark’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989). Waetjen combines narrative and socio-cultural-political approaches in his reading of Mark. The result is something that is aware of the narrative direction of the story, its background issues like purity and honour/shame, plus some good inter-textual analysis too. The section on the passion of Jesus is probably one of the best engaging expositions on Mark 14-16 that I’ve ever read. Consider this:

Now at the end of his life, at the moment of his physical death, the curtain of the sanctuary is torn apart, and God comes forth again. Jesus’ earlier symbolic act of invalidating the temple institution is consummated by the divine exit from the Holy of Holies. Consequently the architectonic center of Judaism is canceled. The old order, which is represented by the temple, its sacrifices and its hierocracy, is abolished. Jerusalem is no longer the navel of the world where heaven and earth are united and where God’s presence is uniquely experienced. Heaven and earth have been reconciled cosmically and universally. Accordingly, the binary opposition between the sacred and the secular, constituted by the temple as the axis mundi of Judaism, is dissolved. Both are reunited, and the entire creation once again becomes ambiguously sacred and profane. Henceforth no geographical, religious, social, sexual, or racial lines can be drawn to separate the clean from the unclean, good from evil,  life from death. God’s presence will be experience everywhere or anywhere without the necessity of atoning sacrifices or a mediating priesthood. God’s presence will be experienced wherever the eschatological reality of the New Humanity that Jesus incarnated throughout his ministry is encountered.

I have a few christological bones to pick with Waetjen and I think discussion of purity and oppression need more nuance, but it is a great read. If I had to be stranded on a desert island with an NA28 and a few commentaries on Mark, I’d want: Waetjen, Gundry, and Collins or Boring.

  • Caio Peres

    It has been in my wishlist for a while now.

  • Raymond

    What is meant that “no geographical, religious, social, sexual, or racial lines can be drawn to separate the clean from the unclean, good from evil, life from death.” The issue of sexual lines is the crux here. If one means that male and female are now given equal access throught the torn curtain, that would be one matter, but to say that sexual constructions such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, etc. etc. are now validated is another matter. One’s theological orientation will determine how this is answered. And that would be my concern in recommending such a volume. Also, what about Lane on Mark? And of course Rikki Watts forthcoming commentary should exceed them all. Thank you for your work.

  • Ross

    Dear Michael I love your blog and have learnt much from it and from you, but if I were to find myself cast away on a desert island, one of the benefits would be not having to read such pretentious drivel as this. Beauty, clearly, is in the eye of the beholder.

  • http://www.facebook.com/garyheld Gary Held

    Michael, on the strength of your recommendation, I purchased a copy. Although I haven’t gotten very far into it, I’m delighted to say I’m VERY impressed! Thank you for bringing attention to this commentary.


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